SCBA, or self-contained breathing apparatus, is critical for areas where the atmosphere just isn't fit to breath. Confined space workers and firefighters both utilize this equipment. But what happens when that equipment fails? If you are like a DeKalb Georgia firefighter in the news lately, you jump out of a second-story window.
Firefighters say the problem with the Draeger equipment has been ongoing and the most recent malfunction is part of an ongoing problem. Draeger, on the other hand, and perhaps not surprisingly, says the problem is with the DeKalb County fire department and their maintenance of the SCBA equipment. They even produced a video saying it wasn't their fault.
NIOSH recently released the results of their tests of the equipment and agreed with Draeger that lack of preventive maintenance was to blame in the event in Georgia.
So what are keys to keeping your SCBA equipment functioning properly? In this case, the facepieces and regulators submitted to NIOSH testing both failed the pressure tests because of dirt on the exhalation valves.
SCBA gear is often subjected to really dirty environments. Dirt, grime, soot, sludge, all have to be cleaned from the mask, hoses, and tanks on a regular basis. Check you manual, but most manufacturers recommend you first remove the filters, cartridges and tanks, then take the respirator mask apart by removing diaphragms and air hoses. Remember to inspect as you go and replace any broken or defective parts.
All the parts should be washed in warm water with a mild soap or detergent. Any dirt or contaminants that may have collected on the respirator gear needs to be scrubbed or otherwise washed away. Once everything has been washed, rinse the equipment with clean water.
Another option is ultrasonic cleaning where pieces of the SCBA system are submerged in a special tank where ultrasonic frequencies create bubbles that can get into even the smallest crevices and seams to remove all dirt or carbon residue. Once the ultrasonic has run its course, dry the equipment using an air dryer or a lint-free towel.
If you have any questions about SCBA equipment, maintenance, or any other aspects confined space safety, please don't hesitate to call or contact us online at PKSafety.com.